The Martha’s Vineyard Commission approved a $1.8 million fiscal year 2022 budget with little fanfare on Thursday night, inking a 1.8 per cent increase in total operating expenses.
The increases can be largely tracked to salaries, after the commission hired two new-full time staff planners in 2020, with only one staff departure.
Town assessments will increase by 2.4 per cent, from $1,229,417 in fiscal year 2021 to $1,258,953 in fiscal year 2022, an increase of $29,536.
The commission is funded by a combination of town assessments, fees from development of regional impact reviews and grants. Town assessments are collected are calculated based on property valuations, according to the commission charter.
At the meeting Thursday, commission executive director Adam Turner and accountant Curt Schroeder enumerated changes in the 2022 budget, including the increase in salary expenditures. Salaries went up from $905,000 in FY 2021 to $990,124 in FY 2022 after the hiring of Liz Durkee as a full time climate planner. The commission also hired Alex Elvin as its DRI coordinator, while coastal planner Jo-Ann Taylor retired.
The commission now has 12 full time employees, each of whom received a 3.8 per cent COLA and merit-based raise.
“That is our main expense,” Mr. Turner said.
Offsetting that expense, the commission brought in significantly more revenue in FY 2021 than in previous years through a flurry of successful grant applications. The commission also had lower legal expenses, as costs associated with litigation against the Wampanoag tribe’s proposed gaming development were 38,491 during FY 2020 compared to $78,091 in FY 2019.
Mr. Turner said he expected grant revenues to continue to increase in the coming year.
Commissioners approved the budget unanimously with little discussion.
In other business, commissioners approved a compliance review on the Mill House renovation project, despite a minor discrepancy between the project plans and construction.
The historic, Revolutionary War-era house in Vineyard Haven was torn down without prior approval, irking the commission and prompting a $100,000 payment toward historic preservation. Although the commission eventually approved the project, the Tisbury historic district commission hired a third party to monitor construction and the commission required a compliance review.
A discrepancy was noticed by the third-party reviewer regarding the layout of the home’s windows and doors, which were not compliant with the plans approved by the commission, according to the report. Floor plans also did not adhere to elevations, according to testimony. Tisbury historic district chairman Harold Chapdelaine felt the discrepancy, however, was not major.
The builder is Peter Rosbeck and the architect is Patrick Ahearn.
In the review Thursday, commissioners also voted that the window discrepancy was not significant, allowing the project to move forward — although some commissioners expressed anger that the builders had not followed plans.
“It was very clear what should go there,” commissioner Kathy Newman said. “I’m always in a dilemma when you ask someone to do something, and they don’t comply.”
Commissioner Ernie Thomas agreed. The vote was 14-1 to approve the change, with Mr. Thomas voting no.
“It is always very disturbing when plans don’t receive our approval before they are implemented, and I would certainly hope, Patrick, that does not happen again,” commission chairman Joan Malkin said.